It’s a no-brainer that lifelong learning contributes to vitality, but now, as higher ed is struggling to find ways to boost enrollment and keep the doors open, developing education that extends well beyond four or even eight years is becoming a more attractive and viable education model.
And the bottom line isn’t the only reason for the change. As students transition from college to career, they no longer stay at the same company or even in the same field in the way their parents did. Many will return to school to supplement their skills and knowledge. Others will be forced to find new professions as technology automates existing processes, eliminating up to 30 percent of existing jobs by 2030. Higher ed is in the unique position to offer the courses and programming they need to stay relevant. This idea is called the 60-year curriculum model because it serves lifelong learners from college to retirement.
If your college or university is exploring the 60-year curriculum model, here are 3 things to consider:
1. It’s time to implement a student-centered approach.
Your school says they have a student-centered approach, but have they really looked at ways to streamline registration and administration that makes it easy for the student to sign up and engage?
“Students as customers does not mean that the customer is always right. It means we
don’t force them through arbitrary processes that are intentionally complex,” said
Heather Chakiris, chief student experience office, UCLA Extension.
Implementing processes for lifelong learners has nothing to do with “dumbing down” academic programs, but everything to do with making sure your traditional processes can accommodate and welcome this new type of student. Your lifecycle management software is one tool that can help you streamline and simplify rote tasks like registration.
2. Complement degrees with credentials.
The 60-year curriculum emphasizes developing educational models so that people can reskill as their personal and professional development needs change. Colleges and universities are no longer in the business of just preparing students for one specific academic program, but also making sure they understand and know how to reinvent themselves to sustain employment for the span of their career.
Furthermore, lifelong learners aren’t going to have the time, patience, or even money to return to school for a degree each time their circumstances change. This is where credentialing can complement the traditional degree path.
“We need to develop academic programs that stretch from childhood into old age,” said
Jeffrey S. Russell, dean of Continuing Studies and vice provost for Lifelong Learning
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “This will require creativity in how we deliver
courses, with an emphasis on flexibility and personalization. It will also require
creativity in how we provide credentials, from degrees to certificates to digital
3. Transform your career center into a hub for lifelong learning.
More than ever, your school’s career center is both a recruitment tool and a bridge to building relationships with lifelong learners. Prospective students are interested in stats on job placement, while lifelong learners want career coaching, skills-specific workshops, and networking events. If you have a robust content management system (CMS), you’ll be able to provide online classes, signups, and alerts along with other information to make it easy for lifelong learners to access and engage with your campus. Approach your website and in-person offerings the same way major retailers do, with the customer at the center of all decisions.
“The combinations of choices alone demonstrate that students are customers, because customers choose what they want to buy, for how much (within their fiscal limitations) and when and whether or not they want to buy something at all,” said Ian Roark, vice president of workforce development at Pima Community College.
In other words, if you don’t make changes now, students will simply look elsewhere
for the education, credentialing, and resources they need to be successful.
Higher ed is in transition and your college or university has an opportunity to capitalize on the changes ahead by strategizing about how to best meet non-traditional students’ needs sooner than later. Is your school ready to take on this challenge? Non-traditional students aren’t going to wait around to find out.
Up your game by downloading our white paper 7 Ways to Attract and Retain New Audiences: Restructuring Higher Ed to Serve Learners for a Lifetime.